humbuggery

The Christmas I was six years old we lived in the bus and I remember worrying how Santa would visit us – we owned no chimney. Even then I’d begun to observe there was something goofy about this whole Santa business. But I remember the shiny, new, and lovely gift I got that year – one of only a handful, and by far the most beloved – Twink, a stuffed-animal (of sorts) from the Rainbow Brite meme. Beautiful, soft, brilliant white and friendly and chosen just for me. I can assure you I believed in magic.

Ralph and I were active in the Christian church a dozen years ago, but I gradually lost the stomach for institutional attendance – for now, at least. Today I’m an agnostic theist who finds great meaning in practices of Christianity and Buddhism and who (still) believes in Jesus’ divinity. As for parenting, our home is probably experienced as one of belief-friendly humanist ethics. So given that, of course, when it comes to this time of year it’s been no trouble to have the, you know, “There is no Santa, kids!” kind of thing going. I copped to my parents’ role in the Santa business soon after Twink and I remember feeling kind of irritated at my mom and dad’s amused smugness over the whole thing.

But over the last decade I’ve also found that children in my life, occasionally my own, like the Santa story and want to believe… Their delight in such a mystery has made me reconsider just why mysteries are good things. Observing the magical thinking, the deep compassion, the free generosity, and the in-the-moment joy of children has humbled me and at times astounded me. Santa will probably always irritate me, but I am beginning to soften. The story of the saint (and other figures like him) is not based in logic and it’s not really a two-dimensional fairytale and it’s not really about greedy consumerism, either.

So even my curmudgeony ass-heart melted a bit when I read this story about the origins of NORAD and their tracking of Santa Claus (the audio is a brief and lovely listen, too), specifically this bit:

“Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have selflessly volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children all around the world. In addition, we now track Santa using the internet. Millions of people who want to know Santa’s whereabouts now visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website.”

This little story brought my inner-Scrooge up short. I’m often saddened about how many adults are deep-down terrified of children and quite limited in their competence and compassion regarding children’s needs. And here this morning, reading this article, I’m reflecting that many grownups are still trying to hold or maybe even reclaim a tender heart.

Ralph and I are fortunate in that our children truly want for nothing material; we have food and clothes and a warm home and all the security one could hope for. I know these are temporary conditions, but corporeal circumstances of relative ease allow us the gift of one another, if we are wise enough to allow that experience. It is true our children want for nothing, but all children need nurture; they are built for it and designed for it and seek it out as instinctively as a new kitten crawls into one’s sweater for something more than just warmth and a heartbeat. This morning I feel entirely grateful for my children because they have taught me so much about the value of compassion and tenderness, practices many in this hardened world are too frightened to commit to.

Behind me my kids sleep in a tangle of arms and legs and weighted down by the massive furry paperweight of kitty Harris; the lights are low and the stockings stuffed and Ralph folds laundry and we await my mother’s arrival. I know under our yuletide tree there will be gifts for me chosen by family and friends; an expression of love in the language of giving. I look forward to these wonderful comforts; more so even I look forward to the experience of my children and the magic they have all through their very Beings.

Beauty Curl by Richard Hudnut

friday metaphors

I’m sure most of my readers are tucked in with family doing holiday awesomeness. But I rarely take a break, so here are my Friday links as per usual!

Seasonal
“Acceptance, Not Expectations” by Wendy Priesnitz
I’ll bet this post of hers will save many from a lot of suffering and holiday-hangovers. I hope you read it!

Personal
“My Middle Name” from Jim at The Busy Dad Blog

“Making Major Life Changes: Five Trans Suggestions for Non-Trans People” by Matt Kailey, featured at womanist-musings

Childhood
“As grim as Grimm: Robert Paul Weston on why children’s books that terrify are the ones kids love the most” at NationalPost
The article doesn’t actually go into this… and there’s this goofy subtext being a child author is inherently “less than” writing for grownups. Still, who else remembers the twisted stories we liked so much as kids? Good times.

“Temper Tantrums” by Rue Kream
I’ve come to believe most of conventional espoused thought on “temper tantrums” is incorrect, illogical, fear-based, and inhumane. Rue Kream’s article is a great 101 to begin to see things another way.

Culture
“A lil bit of twerking and lifting” from Twisty Faster
Ah, Bridalplasty. What fresh hell is this?

Music
This video’s a few years old but I’d never seen it; Tuesday one of my tweeps commented on the increased creepiness of the aging members of Duran Duran leering over hired baby-girl models (one is forced, upon viewing, to fast-forward thirty years and view the mental videotape, made even funnier as this 2007 song appears to be a regurgitation of 1993’s “Ordinary World”).

Let me get this out of the way and say I like a lot of Duran Duran songs (vintage ’80s, of course). This video is like a parody of itself. Besides the fact that these fellows seem to be stalwartly opposed to aging with dignity or bringing something even slightly original to the music video seen (ORLY, the wildcat crazy-sexy lady with boudouir hair?), the whole bullshitty hospital ethos and the crooning and be-eyelinered bandmates overcome with ennui by all the damaged hotness. Plus there are so many supermodels. Like buckets. “Pour more hottie ladies on, quick!” I can’t even give a C for “nice try”, but I will be listening to “Decade” today while I’m craftin’.

Make/Craft/Cook
“How to: wrap gifts with yarn” at Craft

Great Bento Ideas: Christmas Bentos at justbento.com
Adorable!

How To: Pretty Gift Presentations at CRAFT
(Anyone doing any last-minute wrapping?)

Bowling-style shirt for kiddos, an e-book from The Scientific Seamstress. Unisex, sizes 6 months to 8 years. This looks FTW!

Local/Global
I just discovered local doll-maker Barb has done 11 area Toy Drops and counting. What is a Toy Drop? Only something wonderful. Seriously.

Random Excellence
“Our Favorites from 2010” from Awful Library Books
Do not say I didn’t warn you; your eyes may very well bleed upon looking upon these monstrosities.

Good for post-holiday dieting:

(thanks Jeanne!)

And finally:
Vintage Ad: Beauty Curl by Richard Hudnut

You know what, alcohol-based hairsprays really are like a soft-focus Chinese dragon breathing behind a lady who’s had a few too many martinis with her quaalude. In all serious though, AquaNet wasn’t really the preferred aerosol solely on the chola-bang heights we could achieve, but also used on the bottom of our shoes to (supposedly) give us more traction on the basketball court.

***

Merry Christmas!

friday link-up!

Culture
“Accounting for What Matters” by Wendy Priesnitz:

“Aside from allowing academic and personal freedom, life learning is about living more mindfully – acting altruistically (instead of earning gold stars or the approval of authority figures), respecting individuals for who they are rather than how much money they make or how many degrees they have, overturning discrimination, working cooperatively, and learning about and improving the world by living in and acting on it. The kids who are growing up in that way should be able to solve many problems.”

“The false and harmful rhetoric of family life vs. work life” by yours truly

Cute Overload on the U.S. elections

Craft
How-To: Linoleum Print Cards & Invites at Craft

budgeting for your creative habit” at Scoutie Girl. I have to squint real hard on this one… For one thing, the “budget” and notes thing isn’t how I roll (It’s how Ralph rolls though, and it appears to work okay). Also, those mentioned “cash-eating demons” for some people I know are things like rent and utility bills. And maybe this is why I’ve started thinking a lot more about gifting and donating some of my work – I want to create opportunity for other people to feed their souls. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree wtih this: “When your expenditures don’t line up with your values, you get that icky I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feel in your stomach. And it’s hard to shake.”

calaveras, dia de los muertos – beautifully-done in polymer clay with hand-painted detail.

Viewing/Reading/Listening
New on Masterpiece Theatre – “Sherlock” (can watch online)

Good documentaries (links go to the titles on Netflix instant): Awful Normal, Man On Wire, and I Have Never Forgotten You

Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (but I will be getting my copy through Jackson Street Books)

“One Kiss Can Lead To Another” – a great mini-anthology!

Quotes
This one comes via Mamapoekie:

When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other… adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him, for after all, life is his and her journey too. – Professor T. Ripaldi

friday fan-fucking-tastic

Family!
“The Importance of Family Dinner” by mamapoekie
This subject was a tricky one for me as until very recently I revered and “enforced” family dinner (the enterprise has good intentions, of course, and is also such an awesome thing to root-toot about and we’re told if we don’t do it we’re what’s Wrong With America). Of course, my kids and husband and I still eat dinner together almost every night, except now it only happens when people want to, not because they have to or are nagged at (there’s a real difference!).

“Thoughts on Man Caves, Mom Caves, & Gendered Space” by Alexis at the Studioist
I love Alexis’ pieces as well as her rather considered responses to anyone who takes the time to work out a comment. She is a gracious hostess.

The new Life Learning Magazine is out. Well-worth the subscription (and if you write an article, you may get a discount / free subscription).

Science!
Mantid of the Week at I Blame The Patriarchy
Twisty’s been posting less, but each post is enjoyed. I think she has the most tender heart underneath all her meanie.

Porn! (not really, something way better actually)
thethickness.tumblr.com
Edit: see comments.

Halloween!
Super-easy ghost cloak at mermag.blogspot.com
I will be using this. Probably in a few minutes, actually. Yes, not everything I sew is some goddamned masterpiece.

“Scary Decor”; the Studioist (again, but I love her posts and the brief discussion of Halloween experiences in the comments; also she said I was the “best Mom in the world”, praise I sorely need  on days like today where I hardly do anything decent as a mother

“Stripes”, a how-to for making striped fabric (bonus, the tute’s by my brother’s lady J.)

Etc!
“Hey Skinny…” at Twisted Vintage. Loving those little red shorts.

Great review of a pretty spooky movie: “Re-visiting the Canon: Candyman” at PostBourgie. This movie scared me quite deeply as a teen.

Guess who I think is sexy? No, guess. But you know, I think a lot of people are sexy. I guess I’ve got that joie de vivre. P.S. I’m also a big fan of his work and think he’s a compelling performer. The last bit of it I saw was in Wives & Daughters (Netflix instant). Did you know I’m a fiend for pre-20th century British period pieces? WELL I AM.

One imagines this Elliot Smith mixtape on soundcloud is against the Rules of the Intenetz & Copyright, but I have been enjoying a listen.

***

I am a total mess today. I can’t even express how little-by-little I’ve fallen behind to where my life currently feels like a small, grounded hulk of a shipwreck. I won’t feel this way soon. But I feel this way now and I’m being very hard on myself.

what’s in your head, zombie

What’s that you say?

Bunting 002: All Hallows' Eve

“That is so fucking cute, Kelly-goddamned-Hogaboom!” Yeah. Well at least I think so. In fact the only thing I liked better that picturing this bunting from the very second I saw the fabric at Hart’s website was every detail of construction. Like underlining it with fusible wadding and appliqueing bright orange stars and then basting in the pumpkin-orange zipper and waxing thread to finish with handsewing while watching a soccer game:

On My Way

and of course the super-super soft and deep green fleece I lined the whole thing with.

So. Soft.

Oh right, forgot to mention – I thought I’d make another one, a bit less sweet and a bit more gruesome:

Bunting 001: Zombi (Looming)

My sewing room and I are like a couple honeymooners. I can’t wait to get back there and mess around. OK, ew. So what I really mean is, I’m having such a wonderful time making exactly what I want. And you know what I want? More babies, out and about, everywhere. These buntings are so warm they can be out all night trick or treating. Until they fall asleep while nursing in the sling.

I’ve put these abovepictured items up for sale: All Hallows’ Eve and Zombi in my wee little boutique. I’ve already got my next projects – seasonal for the approaching cold weather – out on the slab.

Deeply, truly good times.

Hat Et Al

let’s have a fairly hermitty Christmas and, apparently, never speak of it again

I’ve been honest with people when they ask me how my Christmas was this year:  “Not too great,” “Kind of lousy,” “Meh”.  That sort of thing.  You know, I realize more than ever there’s some kind of culturally-observed rule that ladies aren’t supposed to be honest when asked a question which truthfully would be answered by a less-than-sunshiney answer; about half the people who hear my response react with decidedly uncomfortable body language.  It’s not even like I’m reporting with much drama or any elaboration (because no one has yet asked why my Christmas was only asi-asi).  I guess for some people’s sake I’m just supposed to say, “Great!” enthusiastically and whip around, crouch down, and poop out rainbow-wind.

Gifts were modest but perfectly satisfactory amongst the Hogaboom foursome.  Friends and family provided a few more; my mother went all-out, possibly enacting a guilt-love offering since she was not in town for the Big Day but house- and cat-sitting in Portland.  We had a few dates with friends and I made good food and I was glad to be able to afford good groceries.  Our new house is comfortable and our health is good.

So you know, nothing major went wrong.  It just wasn’t that great.  I aspired to fewer gifts and I accomplished even less than before.  I was tired.  I had (and still have) a canker sore on the inside of my lip that really, really hurts like a sunovabitch.  We’re dog-sitting my mom’s dog and he’s devoted all his energy to ass-chewing and door-scratching.  Our dryer is broken and so loud it’s almost intolerable.  We are broke.  Not quite, water-getting-turned-off-and-checks-bouncing broke (BTDT though!), but, tight enough that my husband’s idea of a romantic and sweet gift was to offer to siphon gas from our waterlogged and out-of-commission car to the one that’s operable (and I am totally serious about this).

It helped me to accept some holiday doldrums when I remind myself that I can literally never remember a bad Christmas in my life before.  I’ve had really good Christmases for, at least inasmuch as I can remember, thirty-two in a row. That’s rather remarkable, but it took me until this year’s lackluster last few days for me to truly grasp this.

And our kids had a good Christmas, at least.  At midnight their pre-Christmas Crazies abruptly disappeared as they opened presents one at a time, expressed joy and gratitude, and said kind and loving things about the gifts and gift-givers.  It was really, really pleasant to spend that time with them. Ralph and I crashed about 1 AM and the kids stayed up and – all on their own – assembled their rather complex little Lego sets and then came and crawled into bed with us.

Good times.  Thanks, kiddos.

moving on up with our cluckers in tow

We’re moving again. We made a deal verbally yesterday afternoon and get our keys in a week.

This makes twice in a year.  I don’t know why it bothers me at all.  I mean, besides the expense and the soul-sucking terribleness of being uprooted (seriously; not having a kitchen of my own and a sewing space gets old for me – quick) I suppose in the deep recesses of my mind I worry the Hogaclan will end up that family that “moves all the time”.  Which, according to people I’ve known who grew up that way, seems to be sometimes a happily-lived and sometimes a hated experience.  Gee, like just about every other lifestyle people cite from their upbringing.

Our kids helped select our new home; they voiced opinions on everything I drove by and walked through everything we walked through and peeked through windows of some laughably slum-tastic dwellings (actually, it’s not really that funny).  The house-owner S. seems like he knows what he’s doing but our lifestyles are near unrelateable to one another; he owns many properties, runs a construction business, self-described himself as “top-ten wealth of Grays Harbor”, and when I told him about our laying hens he was shocked into an uncharacteristic silence with a dear-in-headlights slow blink (why would you have chickens? “For eggs,” my husband speaks up helpfully).  S. approved us on the spot in part because he could tell we weren’t strung out on crack or anything (it’s true!  We’re not!  P.S. for poor-whites in Grays Harbor the drug of choice is meth, just FYI) – forgoing, I shite thee not, the $80 credit check and reference checks and $200 non-refundable deposit per animal (yes, these are all real expenses of the property management groups who aren’t slum-lords – and I’m not even getting into the expenses of utility set-up and moving trucks should you elect to use one).*  As long as nothing goes wrong (insert drum-roll or sound of shattering glass) we’ll be moving our asses to 1st street shortly.

Probably the only thing that really has me temporarily unsorted is that with moving again our Christmas gift scene is derailed.  It’s hard enough for me to get organized enough to buy or make gifts for all my loved ones.  Every year I leave a person or two out and I feel like an ass.  Looks like that’ll be a new Christmas tradition.

* And by the way; one thing I discovered this time around is how very many, many slumlords we have in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.  It seems like a lucrative business – maybe we should go into it eventually.  If, you know, I can get around the whole morally bankrupt and depressing aspects of it.

nothing feels obligatory about it in the slightest

Just about every year for Thanksgiving we take in a person, or two, or three or four who either doesn’t want to be with their own family for Thanksgiving or doesn’t wanna, and we host them for the big dinner.  So yesterday morning my mom asked about this tradition of ours – if we were going to invite any “orphans” over.  I realized today – picking up the naval orange for one of my two cranberry sauces – that I don’t like the phrase “orphan” because it implies a sort of forlornness or wretchedness on the part of those who aren’t going to be with their relatives, and thus makes normative a certain type of family over other types – the latter chosen by will and intent, say, rather than just biology (to be fair, it was one of our “family-less” – as in, someone who had a family but didn’t want to be with them – guests who initially came up with the phrase “orphan”).

The holidays can be pretty damn painful for people.  Even when they’re mostly okay and things go pretty well, I know people sometimes feel deep pockets of sadness or lonesomeness or a descent into nightmarish familial patterns or a sense of wrongness.  Even if it is only an urban legend that suicide and depression rates are higher during holidays, it can sure feel the case (just today I received a message online looking for a man who’d driven away on Friday and who had friends were worried about him).

See, I know my mother pretty well, and I think her Thanksgiving isn’t turning out too awesome – yet.  Two of her three children aren’t coming up for it.  And although my mom is awesome in that she would never hint or guilt-trip them or even in the smallest corner of her heart think that her children “should” come up to see her (and neither do I), I also know that nothing pleases her more than when everyone does.  A thing to remember about my mother, sadly, is that even when she wants something it is very unlikely she would actually ask for it.  It’s taken me many, many years to really listen to what my mom really wants.  And to be honest, I don’t always listen, because sometimes I’m busy being directly asked for shit by my kids and husband, who are less likely to play the coquette.

Back to Thursday: my mother is not going to have dinner with her boyfriend in attendance, either.  They are still very much a couple (and are playing annoying hippie folk music upstairs as I write).  But he’s going to a place and she’s not going with him.  So, OK.

And all of this is okay, and no great tragedy.  And in the way of the suffering of many, many women I know, my mom’s little sadnesses generally don’t inconvenience anyone (ladies are good that way!) or even make themselves known to others.  In my mom’s coping and rarely-if-ever-asking-for-things-she-wants and always being so “laid back” (or at least, wanting to convey this appearance) one could forget she’s only been a widow for a little over a year.  You know, after being with my father for over 35 years.

I don’t really know the heart of my mother – although I suspect now that my dad is gone I’m the closest person who does.  For my part I plan to do my own, deliberate little bit to help her keep from a case of the Holiday Sadkins.  This morning I told her I’d like to cook all the food, if she would only buy the turkey.  She agreed to this with such alacrity I was immediately glad I suggested it.  (Let me tell you, this offer of mine did not come from an obligatory sense of rescue or my role as the matriarch to the family here at 6th and M.  It’s about 85% caring deeply for her emotional well-being and 15% because every goddamned year she annoys the ass off of me by saying, “And this year let’s make it a simple kind of thing, you know, not so arduous for us both.”  This makes me angry like a poo-flinging monkey because in no way do I find cooking a big meal arduous, I completely enjoy it! In fact no one has any evidence, anywhere, that I don’t really, really like to cook)*.

“Family” is a funny thing; we choose to be with those who comfort us, or feed us, or those we genuinely love. And before I was an actual mother to my biological children I thought a lot about myself and what I wanted. And now I think a lot about what other people want (even if I miss the mark a lot too – and I do).  I am not at all saying this post-natal experience of other-care is Natural or Universal (in fact, I think neither).  It’s just my experience.

Today at the store I stood in line behind a handsome man about my age dressed in fancy-looking tennis shoes, new jeans, and a North Face jacket.  He was well-groomed and quiet – his voice so low that when he turned and smiled and said something to my daughter I didn’t hear what he said.  I noticed we were fixing to have the same meal – spaghetti – for dinner tonight.  He was having a simple version – a small parcel of pasta, canned pasta sauce, and a loaf of bakery bread – while I had a basket full of parsley, baguette for toasting the bread crumbs in the meatballs, organic beef and pork, Parmesan cheese, crushed tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and butter.  In noticing his groceries I noticed he didn’t have a wedding band.  And I almost – almost – asked if he had a Thanksgiving plan, and if he’d like to come to our place to join us.

But I didn’t.

Who knows.  Maybe the guy isn’t single, just not wearing a wedding ring, and neither he nor his partner care to cook.  Maybe he’s happily single and that’s his favorite meal.  Maybe (likely!) he has somewhere totally awesome to be on Thursday.  Maybe he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about the holiday.

Or maybe like so many other strangers I’ve offered a meal or a kindness to, it would have made his night just a little more pleasant to be asked, let alone attend in two days.  I will never know because didn’t get the ovaries up to check.

I hope at least he felt my friendliness behind him in the checkout line.

* No, really.  This is insane. Every year she talks like we’ll have a SMALL meal (we never do), and that whew-won’t-that-be-a-relief, when in actuality I look forward to cooking the meal.  Something I hate: when someone tells me how I feel – instead of listening to how I’m telling them I feel. Especially when they get it completely wrong. Especically when they’ve known me since I was born!

freaks & squeaks

Our friend has a new camera with a high definition video function; she’s been doing a few short films including some of my family.  Here she graces you with a glimpse into our Halloween, sitting on my mom’s porch and handing out candy*:

This one was taken by our own teeny little camera, and the subject speaks for itself, literally:

* What say thee on the feminist front?  Are Westernized women’s problems over – do we live in an egalitarian, just society that treats them with respect, as my mother’s boyfriend argues here?